Wayne Rooney: How a Star's Mishandling Could Cost His Country

Chris JennerCorrespondent IMay 9, 2010

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 09:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United grimaces at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on May 9, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The signs were there. It started with an ankle injury in the first leg of Manchester United's Champions League match against Bayern Munich. Their star player, Wayne Rooney, lay in agony on the Munich pitch.

The injury should have kept him out of the lineup for a month, according to team doctors. But a few weeks later, Rooney was on the pitch to start the second leg against the German giants. 

Unfortunately, the good news was short lived. Rooney re-aggravated the same injury, limping off the field early in the second half.

After injuring his groin in training only a few weeks later, another mini-miracle occurred. Rooney recovered ahead of schedule. He played in Man Utd's final two league matches. 

When Rooney limped off the pitch in the 77th minute, with his team holding a comfortable 3-0 lead against Stoke, the English faithful, no doubt, directed a few choice words at manager, Alex Ferguson.

I'll leave those words to your imagination.

The mismanagement of Rooney over the final few months shows the desperation, and lack of depth, within the United side. What can't be rationalized, however, is why Rooney was on the pitch at all.

With Chelsea simultaneously thumping a 10 man Wigan side 8-0, all hope of a Man Utd. title victory had vanished. So why was England's greatest hope for a World Cup victory left on the pitch? 

Was it arrogance? Overconfidence? 

Whatever it was, Ferguson's handling of his star player over the last few months has been downright reckless. With a recurring groin injury and a wonky ankle, how long can England's star last in a tournament that requires seven games in one month for the eventual champions? 

Chances are, Rooney won't last long. England fans can thank the man who has coached their leading player to three successive, pre-World Cup injuries.

While David Becham's injuries in 2002 and Wayne Rooney's health issues in 2006 may have been plain bad luck, the blame falls on Sir Alex Ferguson if England's crown jewel is unable to perform at his best this summer.

Ferguson pushed his star player too far and too soon in a failed attempt at Premiership glory.